Which Inground Pool is Better, Gunite or Fiberglass?
There are two ways to plan your new pool. The first is to learn as much as you can about the options available and then weigh them against the needs and wants of your family. The second option is to pick a custom pool builder and let him make the important details. The biggest decision is whether to go with a prefab pool product or custom inground pool.
A custom pool builder constructs swimming pools by spraying either gunite or shotcrete onto a steel-reinforced form with a high powered hose. Gunite is often confused with shotcrete. Both are cementitious (having the nature of cement) materials. Although gunite is more widely used of the two materials, both are considered equal in strength. It’s only the mixing process that differentiates gunite from shotcrete. When applying gunite, the installer uses a hose that mixes the material with water. Shotcrete is delivered to the site already wet, then it is mixed with air during application.
Inground pool construction for a custom pool is more complicated than that of a fiberglass pool. It’s fascinating to watch the transformation. To construct a custom pool from gunite, the pool builder must install steel bars, called rebar, around the sides and bottom of the excavation to create a perfect mold for the pool’s shape and to reinforce the concrete. However, that also means the pool builder can create just about any fantastic pool feature you can dream of including grottos, tanning ledges, islands or even fun shapes (such as a guitar or Mickey Mouse shaped pool)! Pebbletec is usually added for a beautiful finish and comes in an assortment of colors.
Along with all the benefits homeowners need to also realize that gunite pools with plaster finishes can present a small challenge. After your custom inground pool construction is finished it may take as much as five days or so to get the water just right for swimming. Remember that the filling process started while the plaster was still wet, if it didn’t, the brittle plaster would crack when hit by the water. Filling the pool while the plaster is wet means that a lot of plaster dust will end up suspended in the pool water. This is unavoidable and it is going to take a few days to get rid of. As soon as your gunite pool is filled, you must turn on the filtration system and run it for 24 hours a day and clean the filter as necessary. Another drawback is, you cannot heat the pool for up to three weeks after it is filled and you cannot let anyone swim in the pool until the break-in period is complete.
If you choose not to go with a custom pool builder fiberglass obviously is the other option. This inground pool will arrive at your house in one monolithic shell (sort of like a big tub) on a flatbed truck. This is the complete pool shell, including cutouts for the drain, skimmer, and returns. While this does greatly limit your choice of sizes and shapes, you will still find plenty of pool shapes from which to choose.
It’s important to remember that a fiberglass pool that is placed on an insecure foundation, one with sand, or not backfilled properly can end up either not settling correctly or with bulging walls.
While they are easier to install, fiberglass pools are nowhere near as durable as a gunite inground pool. The inside surface of this type pool is a gel coat on which the fiberglass has been laminated. The walls of the pool are only ½ to ⅜ inch thick compared to the 8 to 10 inch thickness of a gunite pool. A fiberglass pool can be subject to cracking under the force of a strong impact or it could crack years down the road if not installed correctly. Also, because of the thin walls, draining the pool is not an option. Draining could cause the pool to float or the walls to buckle from the immense hydrostatic pressure surrounding the pool. On a positive note, because the pool walls are slick and discourage algae growth it will cut down on maintenance and the use of pool chemicals.
This being said, if you’re looking for a durable, custom solution, gunite is the best option for a watertight pool that will be free of major problems and last a lifetime. Coogan’s Design-Build has been building pools for the past 15 years, and have installed hundreds of fabulous pools with a 100% satisfaction rating. Call Coogan’s today for a free onsite pool consultation.